Review: Pieces of Me (Spectrum Nights #1) by Melanie Hansen

Scott Ashworth is a beautiful man and the hottest club host on the Phoenix gay scene. He takes what he wants, does what he wants, and does whom he wants. It’s a good life, but the journey to local popularity and fame wasn’t an easy one. For all that Scott’s looks are a blessing, at the same time they’re a curse—the source of his alcoholic mother’s inexplicable hatred.

Rylan Mahoney dreams of photojournalistic glory. He’s in Phoenix looking for the story of a lifetime, but the project isn’t coming to fruition. Needing rent money, he accepts a gig at Phoenix Pride hawking lewd lollipops and edible condoms…all while wearing gold lamé hot pants and a matching bow tie. When Rylan’s house keys and street clothes go missing after his shift, he’s desperate, until a stranger in a convertible stops to help.

The man is absolute sex on legs, and Rylan is jolted when he recognizes him—his stepbrother Scott Ashworth, long missing but suddenly larger than life. Scott is affluent and successful now, light years away from his hardscrabble days living with Rylan in a double-wide trailer deep in the heart of the Florida Panhandle.

Reunited after six years apart, Scott and Rylan are determined to put their past behind them, but fate may have other ideas and leave their future in jeopardy yet again.

Word count: 90,400

Warning: Underage sexual interaction, mentions of abuse, cliffhanger ending. - As mentioned on publisher's website.

Start as you mean to go on.

Every once in awhile a book comes along that sucks me right in and that is the greatest feeling for me as a reader. I sunk down into Pieces of Me like a good bubble bath with Jacuzzi jets. I connected right away with both Scott and Rylan and I've bought a ticket on their ship. God, please don't let it turn into the Titanic.

It starts off with them as teens having met after their parents unexpectedly married. I was caught off guard by half the book being YA, but it was a smart move on Hansen's part. She captured that youthful innocence and quality that allows kids to bond quickly whereas adults tend to be more cynical and wary.

They soon become allies and best friends all of which felt natural. Rylan is openly gay and Scott begins to recognize he's bi. Their forays into exploring their sexuality were both sweet and titillating with very little teen angst. Thank all the things for that.

I've come to realize that I'm not the greatest judge of whether or not a read is "heavy", so I'll just lay out some facts. Scott's mother Heather is verbally abusive, neglectful and an alcoholic who regularly tells Scott how much she hates him for ruining her life. They are poor and live in a trailer so there is some taunting by classmates both due to their socioeconomic status as well as Rylan being openly gay. Also, Rylan's first school friend is G who's trans, bullied some though most of it happens off page and has religious zealots for parents. I had some feels but my face never leaked, if that helps. It doesn't read like a downer. I even chuckled at some of the conversations and Rylan's ballsyness. 

Both of these characters are nuanced and complex but at the same time I felt like I knew them both right away. Honestly, I could go on and on about them but the fact of the matter is I loved them both. I think they give each other what the other needs without those needs being voiced. They're soul mates. The trust they feel towards one another is clear in the dialogue.

Hansen paid attention to the characterization details like accents and speech patterns and even changed them when we meet up with Scott again 6 yrs later in Phoenix. But what resonated the most with me was the layers she gave all of these characters, not making them caricaturishly black or white but somewhere in the grayscale. I find that believable. There wasn't a character in this book that I didn't at one point or another feel sympathetic towards because they all have their own story and don't easily fit into a specific label.

There is still much to be discovered about both Rylan and Scott and the last 6 yrs and I want a front row seat. It's clear their feelings for each other haven't changed and are on the verge of rekindling, but first Rylan's got to help Scott knit the pieces of himself together into a whole and complete person capable of loving Rylan the way he deserves as well as loving himself. 

The drag queens at Spectrum provide most of the levity and Teena can get directly into my pocket without passing 'Go' or collecting $200. I'm curious about the project Rylan is working on with trans women sex workers and I want to better understand what the story is. So... generally addicted to the whole kit and kaboodle is a fair assessment of my feels.

Word of caution- it does end on a cliff. The blurb does not lie. 

One last thing, I LOVE the cover. Finally! My cover love paid off.

I cannot recommend this enough. I would put it on a billboard but that seems like overkill.

A review copy was provided.

Find out more on Goodreads.

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